EXCERPT: A Tornado of Dorothys — Kat Howard

When a path has been set, it is very hard not to take it. That difficulty increases when the path is one that has been made just for your feet.

Or at least made for the shoes your feet are wearing.

Everything changes after a storm.

***

Kansas was gray. The fields were gray and the dirt was gray. The sun, which was not gray but was merciless, faded everything that might once have had color into one flat tone. Even the people of Kansas were gray: Aunt Em, the harsh, unbending gray of steel, and Uncle Henry, the thin pale gray of the shadow that stood behind her. The only thing that was not gray was Dorothy’s small dog, Toto, whose comforting fur was a dark, unfaded black.

The tornado was gray, too, at least until Dorothy was inside of it. Then the clouds were striated purple and the light was an acid green. Dorothy looked out the window as the house spun in the center of the tornado, her hands toying with the ends of Toto’s shiny black fur.

Dorothy did not notice when the spinning stopped, nor did she feel the bump when the tornado set the small house on the ground. What she did notice was the color. Even through the worn gray calico of the curtains, she had to narrow her eyes against the strength of the blue. Dorothy blinked then looked again. She nudged the half-awake Toto from her lap then walked to the window.

Dorothy stared at the blue of the sky, the green of the grass, the clearness of the air, until her eyes burned and tears wet her cheeks. Something inside of her fell, caught, flew. Her hands made fists in her dress. “We’re home, Toto. We’re home.”

The door of the house flung open behind her. “So you’re the new one, then? Well, I’m sorry for you. Put on the shoes, and off you go.”

Dorothy turned around. There was a girl, about her age, holding a pair of silver shoes.

“Those are beautiful,” Dorothy said. And they were, the shoes, as bright and beautiful as everything else here, wherever this was. “But the new what?”

“The new Dorothy,” said the girl. “Soon to be the new Witch of the East. If you’re lucky.” The girl extended her arm with such force that one of the silver shoes slid from her grasp and clattered to the floor.

“I’m Glinda. The Witch of the South. South is always the Glinda. That’s the way it has to be.

“Once you get to be East, you can be the Eva. But until you get there, you have to be the Dorothy.”

Dorothy looked at Glinda. “I am Dorothy.”

Glinda rolled her eyes and tossed the second silver shoe on the floor with the first. “That’s what I just said. Until you’re East, you’re the Dorothy. Now put on the shoes. They’ll take you where you have to go. But hurry up. Oz doesn’t like to wait.”

The shoes gleamed at Dorothy, brilliant as the sky outside. Outside. Glinda was rude, and Dorothy had no idea who Oz was, but the shoes were beautiful, and she wanted to go outside. She sat and began to put them on.

“It’s my name, I mean. Dorothy. The name I was born with. Dorothy Gale.”

“Well, maybe that will help you, maybe it won’t. But you’ve got to be the Dorothy now, until you’ve become East. Oz needs to have a Dorothy.”

Dorothy had finished buckling the silver shoes while Glinda was talking. She stood up and took a couple of steps. The shoes were comfortable, more flexible and less heavy then she had expected. She clicked her heels together, and they rang like the tolling of a bell.

Glinda looked at Dorothy and sneered. “This isn’t the story where doing that takes you home, even if you had said the words.”

“I don’t know what story you’re talking about, and I don’t want to go home.” Dorothy pushed past her, out the door of her transplanted house, and into the fantasy of color beyond.

Behind her she heard Glinda say, “You will.”

[End Excerpt]